Future phones will be your set-top box, games console and netbook

Your next phone will have enough power to output 3D in HD to a TV, while keeping the battery happy with four cores running at once, Qualcomm claims. Peer into the future, phone fans.

Flora Graham
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Phones like the Motorola Atrix are already bidding to replace your laptop. But the next generation of mobiles will also serve as your 3D home cinema, videogame console and much-improved camera, according to Qualcomm.

Qualcomm's insanely powerful Snapdragon processors already fuel phones such as the HTC Sensation. At last week's Uplinq conference in California, the chipmaker showed off demos of some of the insane features we can expect to see on the next generation of handsets.

The demos were a mix of features that are already here, like OnLive streaming gaming, and those that are just around the corner, like 3D output to your telly. In two years, this will be your phone...

A 3D set-top box

Qualcomm wasn't pushing a 3D mobile phone screen like the one on the LG Optimus 3D. Rather, it showed off the ability of its processor to handle insanely heavy 3D tasks.  

We saw a mobile phone, for example, putting out high-definition 1080p films to both active and passive 3D TVs (pictured above). We also witnessed live conversion of 2D movies to 3D, a process that uses an algorithm that analyses each frame to figure out how to give it believable depth.

We've already seen plenty of phones with HDMI outputs, such as the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. But the focus has been on looking at the videos and photos you shot on the phone itself. By showing a mobile with the power to process downloaded or streamed 3D HD films, Qualcomm is emphasising the potential for a phone to become a teeny tiny PVR, which you can plug into any TV to see your content.  

A games console

As well as your set-top box, Qualcomm also hopes to see your phone become your videogame console. 

We saw a demo showing off OnLive, the streaming game service, running on the HTC Flyer, which has a Snapdragon processor working hard inside. As you play, OnLive does all the heavy lifting of playing the game on its servers, and then streams the results straight to your screen. 

The demo looked impressive, except that it wasn't real -- in the fraught Wi-Fi whirlpool of the Uplinq conference, the connection just wasn't good enough. Instead, we got a video demo.

Combined with an OnLive controller and a stand, OnLive was hoping to convince us that the Flyer could replace an Xbox 360 and a telly. Without getting our hands on it for a few days, we can't say whether it lives up to the hype, but it's a tempting concept.

We also saw peer-to-peer multiplayer gaming thanks to AllJoyn, Qualcomm's open-source standard. It's a free SDK that helps developers link devices over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or two cans and a piece of string, without needing to both connect to a network.

A cloud-based computer

Chuck that Chromebook, because Qualcomm is sticking enough extras on to Android to make your phone's Web browser as powerful as the one on a computer.

We saw a demo of an HTML 5 website with four simultaneously streaming videos, for example, along with 1080p output to a TV over HDMI.  

If you're not an HTML 5 fan, Qualcomm is also keen to bring Flash support to cheaper Android phones, by supporting it on their lower-end chipsets.

With HTML 5 and Flash both on tap, Web-based apps could begin to offer experiences equal to your installed apps.

A week-long battery

The latest dual-core and quad-core Snapdragon processors can turn their cores on and off like fiddling with the taps, to match the demand from apps and games. It's called asynchronous architecture, and it should mean vastly increased battery life. 

The live demo we saw showed off a power saving of around 70 per cent while playing a sample game of Ilomilo, but a lot depends on the app developer getting it right.

Click the photo gallery above to see some of the Snapdragon snappiness in action.  

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3D output from a phone to an HD television.
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Peer-to-peer Pac-man Kart using AllJoyn.
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Longer battery life thanks to asynchronous action.
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Multiple streaming HTML 5 videos in the Android Web browser.
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HTML 5 video in the Android browser, output from a phone to an HD telly in 1080p resolution.

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